Climatic Change

, Volume 116, Issue 3, pp 747-766

First online:

A megacity in a changing climate: the case of Kolkata

  • Susmita DasguptaAffiliated withWorld Bank Email author 
  • , Asvani K. GosainAffiliated withDepartment of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology
  • , Sandhya RaoAffiliated withINRM Consultants Pvt. Ltd.
  • , Subhendu RoyAffiliated withWorld Bank
  • , Maria SarrafAffiliated withWorld Bank

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Projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest that there will be an increase in the frequency and intensity of climate extremes in the 21st century. Kolkata, a megacity in India, has been singled out as one of the urban centers vulnerable to climate risks. Modest flooding during monsoons at high tide in the Hooghly River is a recurring hazard in Kolkata. More intense rainfall, riverine flooding, sea level rise, and coastal storm surges in a changing climate can lead to widespread and severe flooding and bring the city to a standstill for several days. Using rainfall data, high and low emissions scenarios, and sea level rise of 27 cm by 2050, this paper assesses the vulnerability of Kolkata to increasingly intense precipitation events for return periods of 30, 50, and 100 years. It makes location-specific inundation depth and duration projections using hydrological, hydraulic, and urban storm models with geographic overlays. High resolution spatial analysis provides a roadmap for designing adaptation schemes to minimize the impacts of climate change. The modeling results show that de-silting of the main sewers would reduce vulnerable population estimates by at least 5 %.